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Help please with 3 week Portugal itinerary

Help please with 3 week Portugal itinerary

Old Dec 7th, 2022, 08:36 AM
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Help please with 3 week Portugal itinerary

My husband I will be traveling to Portugal for the first time in September 2023 to attend our daughter's destination wedding, not too far from Sintra and we are trying to organize our itinerary around the date of her wedding. My son will be joining us for part of the trip (starting in Sintra and he will likely continue on with his own Portugal vacation/itinerary after our departure).

The only part of the trip that I have booked so far is accommodations in Sintra - we will be spending 4 nights there at the Sintra Marmoris Palace.

I am thinking that we will spend 3 weeks altogether in Portugal (maybe a couple days more) and I am looking for some itinerary advice. This is what I have roughed out so far. By the way, we won't be renting a car during our time in Lisbon, but we plan to rent one for the duration of our vacation (but if train is a better option, we would consider that as well). Our interests include history, culture, food, wine, roaming and exploring the various cities, without feeling rushed.

- 3 nights in Lisbon
- 2 nights in Tomar (not sure if this is too much) - thinking about staying at Hotel Dos Templarios
- 1 night in Coimbra (not sure if this is required) - potentially staying at Hotel Oslo
- 2 nights in Douro Valley (not sure where)
- 3 nights in Porto (not sure where)
- 4 nights in Sintra (perhaps this is more time than we need here, but since the wedding is in the area, I want to make sure that we have enough time to take in the sites and indulge in wedding festivities and gathering. (Booked at Sintra Marmoris Palace)
- 4 or 5 nights in the Algarve area (not sure exactly where, but I am thinking about Faro, Lagos, Tavira or Albufeira)
- 2 nights in Evora
- 1 night (last night in Lisbon)

I am not at all familiar with the territory so I would appreciate welcome any feedback recommendations. Is my itinerary feasible? Are there sites/cites I should add or delete from the itinerary.
Is the trip from Porto to Sintra too much for one day or should I include a stopover somewhere in between (Obidos?)

Thank you in advance for any help you can offer. By the way, this is the first time posting in this forum, so I hope that I posted in the right place.

Last edited by Reau; Dec 7th, 2022 at 08:41 AM. Reason: deleting private info
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Old Dec 7th, 2022, 11:33 AM
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Reau,
3 weeks in Portugal in September is a good amount of time to explore. Is the wedding venue the Tivoli Palácio de Setais, by chance? I'm assuming the routing of your itinerary is based around the wedding date near Sintra (?)

Personally, I'd add another night on the front end to Lisbon. There's just so much to see, especially if you're a museum-goer and love history, culture and exploring different neighborhoods.

The Algarve:
It's all about golf, beaches (but very cold water), water sports, surfing on the west coast, hiking on the cliffs. It's similar to the Spanish Costa del Sol as it's overdeveloped in the middle section with purpose-built resorts, and lacking in great historical interest. The Algarve has few "must see" historic sites compared to the rest of the country. The most scenic parts: Lagos to the west, with its dramatic rock formations, and whitewashed, Moorish looking Tavira, with its barrier islands, to the east.
Faro can be seen in under 2 hours. Albufeira for me personally has too many British pubs, rowdy stag & hen parties, loud music and is just too touristy.

So, if it were my trip (but it isn't!!), I'd omit the 3.5 hour drive down to the Algarve and back to Evora and take those 4-5 Algarve nights and add them to Lisbon, Porto, Coimbra and Unesco World Heritage Evora in the very interesting Alentejo (castles, wine estates, olive and cork groves, horse farms, rolling hills, perched Moorish fortress villages, megalithic monuments---dolmens, cromlechs, menhirs). And Evora has become a foodie mecca this year. It has just been named the European Capital of Culture for 2027.

I don't think 2 nights is too many in Tomar at all, especially if you want to visit the Batalha Monastery and/or the Templar Almoural Castle on a day trip in addition to the Convento de Cristo in Tomar.
We did stay at the Hotel dos Templários because my BFF wanted a hotel w/pool (indoor & outdoor). While pleasant enough, it's a large "convention style", Salazar-era hotel (1967) that does a brisk conference business and has an impersonal feel. I would have preferred to stay at the more charming, intimate Thomar Boutique Hotel and will on my next visit.

We had 2 nights in Coimbra because we wanted to visit the Conímbriga Roman ruins outside of town as well as the University buildings, the Joanina library (timed entry only) and Chapel of São Miguel, the botanical garden and the wonderful Museum of Machado de Castro. You'll find, I hope, informative info about Coimbra in Julie Dawn Fox's blog:
https://juliedawnfox.com/tag/coimbra/
As a treat, we stayed at the charming, historical Quinta das Lagrimas on the other side of the river (celebrating a special occasion) and also for ease of parking. But the Hotel Oslo in town gets solid reviews and has a nice rooftop terrace.

2 nights in the Douro Valley would be a minimum for me, as the narrow roads are not "easy drives" there for the uninitiated. I suggest that for an atmospheric stay that you choose a quinta (wine estate), such as the Quinta de la Rosa, just outside Pinhão, or closer to Porto, the Quinta da Pacheca, outside of Peso da Régua, which are both easy to access with a car.

For your stay in Porto, I would look at hotels on the pedestrianized Rua das Flores or around Aliados.

The drive from Porto to Sintra will take under 4 hours w/o stops, says www.viamichelin.com. You'll be retracing your steps through Coimbra. I'm not a big fan of over-touristed Obidos (for me, good for a couple of hours), and I try to avoid one night stands, but in your case, you might consider an overnight near Alcobaça Monastery (the love story of Pedro & Inés) on the Silver Coast for a little taste of the beach. (at the Quinta da Foz, for example)

Just some thoughts...



Last edited by Maribel; Dec 7th, 2022 at 12:04 PM.
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Old Dec 7th, 2022, 01:01 PM
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Thank you ever so much, Mirabel, for your fulsome comments and advice. You have certainly offered a lot of food for thought. To respond to your question about the wedding, it will actually be held in Estoril at Forte da Cruz beach castle, which I understand is about 15 to 20 minutes away from Sintra. That is the only part of the trip that we are really committed to. The wedding will be in mid-September, so we are thinking of arriving a couple of weeks before to indulge and explore, while having another week or so in Portugal after the wedding.

Taking your feedback to heart, I am thinking about:

- Eliminating Algarve from our trip altogether
- Elongating our stays in the different cities so we won’t feel too rushed and frenzied (we want to be able to soak up the culture even if it means not being able to “see it all”.
- Taking the train instead of renting a car, particularly since you mention that driving to Douro Valley is not easy for the uninitiated (my husband is faint-of-heart when it comes to driving narrow curvy roads, especially when they are near a cliff’s side)
- Flying into Porto and out of Lisbon

Also, based on your comments, I have reworked my itinerary and was wondering if you could please offer me your thoughts and advice. Many thank again.

- 4 nights in Porto
- 3 nights in Douro Valley
- 2 nights in Coimbra
- 2 nights in Tomar
- 4 nights in Sintra
- 4 nights in Evora
- 4 nights in Lisbon
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Old Dec 7th, 2022, 01:46 PM
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Reau,
So that you don't feel so rushed and to be able to soak up the atmosphere of the places you visit, I would eliminate the Algarve and add those nights to your cities to be able to explore them more thoroughly.
It does make more sense to avoid the backtracking by flying into Porto and departing from Lisbon.

And just 2 nights in the Douro seemed a bit short to me if you do want to do wine touring and dining. Although a car is very helpful in the Douro Valley, without one, you can use the taxi services available at the rail stations in both (Peso da) Régua and Pinhão.
These gentlemen navigate the roads well and know all the quintas:
For Régua, I've used the services of Emmanuel David, Douro Taxis
Tel: (+351) 915 012 777 Email: [email protected]
For Pinhão, Manuel Anselmo
Tel: (+351) 966 192 904. https://www.taxipinhao.com/en-gb/mentions-legales.

For the rest of your trip, however, I would want a car, especially for day trips. But that would mean returning to Porto from the Douro on the Linha Douro train and picking up a car there at Campanhã rail station for the drive to Coimbra. There´s only one car rental agency, Europcar, in the Douro in Régua, and it closes on Sat. afternoon and all day Sunday.

While I do love, love Evora and the Alentejo region, 3 nights might suffice, with 5 nights in Lisbon at the end, dropping off the car at the Lisbon airport in the late afternoon or early evening (always easier to follow the airplane icons on the motorway that lead you straight to the airport and the car rental drop off than trying to return it to the city).

If you're a museum-goer, Lisbon has spectacular museums (Gulbenkian, Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, Coach Museum, Tile Museum, private collection of Medeiros e Almeida and many more). The many sites in Belém could take up most of your day as well.

Just a few more thoughts.
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Old Dec 7th, 2022, 01:48 PM
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Reau,
My long reply to your last post is in purgatory, being moderated (this sometimes happens here in the forum). It will appear soon, I hope. Just keep checking.
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Old Dec 7th, 2022, 06:56 PM
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Thank you, again, Mirable. I have much to ponder. I am sure that I'll adjust my itinerary a few times over between now and next fall. Thanks again for all of your assistance.
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Old Dec 7th, 2022, 06:59 PM
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There it is! In post 4, released from purgatory!
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Old Dec 7th, 2022, 11:36 PM
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1. Lisbon 2 nights
Start your trip with a two-night stay in Lisbon. Explore the citys historical center, take a ride on the iconic trams, visit one of the citys many museums or take a day trip to the nearby town of Sintra.
2. Sintra & Cascais - 2 nights
From Lisbon, make your way to the nearby towns of Sintra and Cascais, where you can explore the romantic architecture of the old palaces and castles, or take a stroll along the beaches.
3. Porto & Douro Valley - 3 nights
Make your way to the city of Porto, the port city that gave Portugal its name. Spend a few days exploring the old city center, take a cruise along the River Douro, or take a day trip to the nearby Douro Valley, where you can sample some of the regions famous wines.
4. Algarve - 4 nights
Head south to the Algarve region, where you can explore the stunning coastline, take a boat trip to one of the many grottos, or spend the day at one of the many beaches.
5. Your Daughter's Wedding - 2 nights
Attend your daughter's wedding in the nearby town of Sintra.
6. Departure - 1 night
Spend your last night in Portugal in Lisbon before flying out.

Last edited by moeez56; Dec 7th, 2022 at 11:40 PM.
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Old Dec 8th, 2022, 09:11 AM
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Thank you Mirabel and moeez56 for your suggestions. Regarding our stay in Porto, would you be able to please suggest accommodation options in pedestrianized Rua das Flores and around Aliados. What are the advantages/disadvantages staying in either locale. Our nightly budget would probably be no more than $300 to $350 euros per night. Also, is it worthwhile staying in both Porto and Douro Valley? Thanks again.
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Old Dec 8th, 2022, 11:25 AM
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Hi Reau,
These are the hotels that I like on Porto's pedestrianized Rua das Flores:
*Porto Bay Flores (my favorite)
Pousada do Porto
Porto A.S.1829

Around Aliados:
*Infante Sagres (my favorite, gorgeous interiors and a Porto icon--sold recently by Fladgate to another group)
Intercontinental Palacio das Cardosas (may be over budget if you don't have IHG points)
Eurostars Aliados

The Maison Albar le Monumental Palace is probably over your budget but gorgeous
The Editory is new--haven't seen it.

Because a day excursion (small group or private tour) from Porto to the Douro makes for about a 10-hour journey that almost always includes a visit to two wineries, a scenic viewpoint (miradouro), lunch and a 1-hour boat ride, it will just be a glimpse of the valley. Since you have ample time, I would spend several nights there in a quinta, especially if you enjoy food and wine touring.

About Evora-
I love the charming Albegaria do Calvário, with parking, inside the city walls. It's a Fodorite favorite as well. But in September the hotel does take luxury cycling groups, so it needs to be booked well in advance.
https://adcevora.com

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Old Dec 8th, 2022, 01:19 PM
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Wow, Mirabel! I am quite smitten by the Porto Bay Flores. I can understand why it is your favourite. I notice that the hotel does not offer parking (though public parking is available nearby). Do you think that a car is needed with Porto or would taxis, ubers, etc. do the trick? By the way, I have talked it over with my husband and he said that he is fine with renting a car and driving to Douro Valley and beyond so we will rent a car upon departure from Porto. Thanks again, Reau
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Old Dec 8th, 2022, 01:21 PM
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Reau,
A car is a distinct handicap in Porto! Driving in the center city is not advised. You have Uber and taxis that are inexpensive. Just rent that car upon departure from Porto.
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Old Dec 8th, 2022, 01:45 PM
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Great to know about driving, Mirabel. That works well for us. I just made reservations at Porto Bay Flores. I decided to splurge and reserved the Palace Room. What a wonderful vacation to look forward to.
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Old Dec 8th, 2022, 01:54 PM
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Ah, the Palace Room! Nice choice.
And directly on and at the end of the Rua das Flores (Largo São Domingos) you have some very nice places to dine-----the Cantina 32, the dining room of the Casa da Companhia, DOP by Rui Paula, Páteo das Flores, Traça

And Claus Porto sells lovely soaps and body lotions that make nice gifts.
The Mercearia das Flores is a deli selling food products and wines.
Meia Dúzia sells delicious chocolate, olive, chutney, quince pastes that also make nice treats to take home. it has a shop on Rua das Flores, where you can sample each flavor.
https://www.meiaduzia.pt/en/home

And within easy walking distance you have two great places to sample those yummy Portuguese custard tarts, pastéis de nata--at Castro-Atelier on Rua de Mouzinho da Silveira 61, one street over, and Manteigaria, at Rua dos Clérigos 37


The Museu da Misericórdia on your street is an interesting religious art museum, boasts a beautifully tiled church and now a rooftop café.

Last edited by Maribel; Dec 8th, 2022 at 02:32 PM.
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Old Dec 10th, 2022, 10:02 AM
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Maribel - As per your recommendation, I have booked three nights at Quinta de la Rosa, in one of their suites (Eleanor, Carlotta or Sarah). I am not sure if these suites are in the main building or in one of the properties (near the main building) but I will follow-up to confirm.

Regarding transportation, I am rethinking this again. Do you think that it would be feasible to book a train from Porto to Douro Valley (Pinhao) and make use of taxi/uber service while we are there, return to Porto via boat (I am not sure if one-way boat trips even exist), and then rent a car and drive for our next stops/journey towards Coimbra and Tomar? Or do you think that this is too much back-tracking? Thanks again for all of your invaluable help.

Last edited by Reau; Dec 10th, 2022 at 10:08 AM.
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Old Dec 10th, 2022, 01:08 PM
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Those suites aren't in the original manor house at Quinta de la Rosa. They're in a separate building. The main building consists of the wine tasting room and the restaurant.

The Linha Douro train doesn't have reserved seats. You can book your ticket ahead at cp.pt, but it isn't necessary unless you want to avoid a line at the rail station. The train does have a/c, but it is a slow ride and scenic only as you approach the valley (advice: sit on the right side going to Pinhão for the views).
One way boat trips from the Douro back to Porto don't exist. It's up to the Douro by boat, usually only to (Peso da) Régua) and back by train or bus on the tours I'm familiar with.

If you do want to just make use of a taxi service in the Douro (Uber doesn't exist there), I would take the train, Porto to Pinhão, since you've booked at Quinta de la Rosa, outside of the town, and then train back. But having a car in the Douro to explore is really the very best way to enjoy the valley, when staying for 3 nights or more.

For wine touring with easy driving access around Pinhão you have your Quinta de la Rosa, the rustic looking Quinta do Infantado (makes great ports), the Quinta das Carvalhas (belongs to Real Companhia Velha), Quinta da Roêda (belongs to Croft), Quinta Bomfim (Symington), Quinta do Seixo (Sandeman) and Quinta do Tédo, owned by an American-French couple.
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Old Dec 10th, 2022, 03:51 PM
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We spent 3 weeks in Portugal this fall, as 1st time visitors and I agree with everything Maribel said. We had 3 nights in Lagos/Algarve and loved it, but if I had to eliminate anything from the trip we had, that would be it. We had 3 nights in Coimbra, with 1 full day in Coimbra and 1 full day for Batalha and Alcobaca. If this was my trip, I think I would take 1 night from Evora and add it to Coimbra, and make no other changes. You'll love Portugal.
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